TEMPLE TRAVELS TO CINCINNATI FOR A CONFERENCE SHOWDOWN
After a pair of close losses threatened the postseason, Temple recovered over the bye week en route to a 34-26 signature victory over Navy, sinking the Midshipmen in front of a Thursday night national audience. Next up, the Owls prep for a road trip to Cincinnati to face their division rival Bearcats, with the game set to kickoff Friday night at 7:00 p.m. EST and air nationally on ESPN2.
This past Thursday, Temple (4-5, 2-3 American) put on an offensive and defensive clinic as the team dominated Navy in nearly every aspect of the game, earning the 34-26 victory to improve to within two wins of being bowl eligible for the fourth straight season. Senior QB Frank Nutile, making just his second overall start, tossed a career-high four touchdown passes on 22-of-30 passing for 289 yards, connecting with fellow seniors WR Adonis Jennings (five catches for 127 yards & two TDs) and Keith Kirkwood (career-best seven receptions for 87 yards and & one score).
Meanwhile, the well-rested Temple defense held Navy’s triple-option – the nation’s top-ranked rushing attack – to a season-low 136 rushing yards, 240 yards below their previous average. Further, the Owls snuffed out the Midshipmen’s 69-game streak of at least one rushing touchdown, forcing the offense into uncomfortable passing situations throughout the game. Concordantly, junior S Delvon Randall grabbed his fourth pick of the season late in the second half, once again vaulting him into a tie with fellow safety Sean Chandler on the all-time interception list at 11th overall.
Looking ahead to Cincinnati (3-6, 1-4 American), the Owls aim to pick up their first back-to-back conference wins of the season on the road under the Friday night lights. The victory over Navy helped reorient Temple and restore confidence on both sides of the ball, especially as multiple players returned from injuries throughout the roster. The complete performance from Nutile, combined with a harassing defensive showing that included 11 tackles-for-loss and five sacks, looked the part of a postseason team.
As for the Bearcats, Luke Fickell and company were finally able to earn their first conference victory this past Saturday on the road at Tulane, knocking off the Green Wave in a tight contest, 17-16.
LAST TIME vs. CINCINNATI
Temple last took on Cincinnati in late October of last season, cruising past the Bearcats in a 34-13 home victory. With the win, the Owls improved to bowl eligible for the second consecutive year, eventually serving as a jumping off point for the team’s run at the American Athletic Conference title.
Multiple current Owls showed up in spades last season against Cincinnati with notable performances coming from then-sophomore RB Ryquell Armstead, who picked up 61 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries, and then-redshirt sophomore Ventell Bryant, who grabbed three catches for 66 yards and a TD.
The backend of the Temple defense – safeties Delvon Randall (#2) and Sean Chandler (#3) – has been one of Owls’ strongest links since season kickoff, anchoring a veteran unit in both the passing and rushing games. Chandler, the senior, entered the season with seven interceptions and tied for 12th all-time in school history. Early during the UConn game though, Randall grabbed his third pick of the year, tying his fellow safety on the leaderboards. Chandler responded a week later against Army to retake the lead, moving up into 11th. Following the bye week, Randall knotted the category at eight interceptions apiece as he snared his fourth of the season versus Navy, sliding up into a tie, once again, with his senior mentor.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
Unnoticed by most, Sharif Finch has compiled a career year rushing the passer, silently picking up a tackle-for-loss here and a sack there. Against Navy alone, the redshirt senior picked up two sacks on a usually run-focused Midshipmen offense, expanding on his already season-best 5.5 sacks. On the year, Finch ranks 31st nationally and fourth in the conference in tackles for loss per game (1.3) and 44th nationally and fifth in the conference in sacks per game (.61)
SWEET HOME ALABAMA
First-year head coach Geoff Collins may have learned a thing or two from Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell while the pair worked together on the 2007 Alabama defensive staff, a group that took home a national title that season. While each took different paths to a head coaching position – Fickell through the Big Ten and Collins via the SEC – the two will finally have an opportunity to face off against one another.
THE DESTABILIZATION EFFECT
In terms of destabilizing opposing offenses, the Owls have been particularly disruptive, tackling opponents for a loss an average of eight times per game. On the year, Temple has racked up an impressive 72 tackles-for-loss totaling 290 yards, good for 10th nationally and second in the American Athletic Conference. This past Thursday against Navy, the Owls were especially harassing, shutting down the Midshipmen with 11 TFLs and five sacks.
THE CONQUEST OF OHIO
Since 2006, Temple has wreaked havoc upon programs hailing from the state of Ohio, earning a 17-14 overall record. When facing Cincinnati alone, the Owls have been particularly potent as of late, outscoring the Bearcats 78-39 the past two matchups.
DEEP THREAT DON
The Temple wide receiving unit has showcased its depth all season behind a slew of pass catchers making contributions every game. One who stands out in particular following the victory over Navy is Adonis Jennings, whose deep-threat ability has been deadly to opposing defenses throughout the season. The senior picked up his third career 100-yard receiving game versus the Midshipmen, grabbing two touchdowns along the way. On the year, Jennings’ four total scores have come from a distance of at least 30 yards out, with the two against Navy sitting at 37 & 34, respectively.
In perhaps a coincidental tribute to Temple’s beloved mascot, Stella, the Owls have performed particularly well at night, scoring a 14-9 mark since 2013 in games kicking off after 6:00 pm. In an unrelated note, Temple also plays solid football on Fridays, going 5-1 in Friday night contests dating back to 2015.
The Owls return to Lincoln Financial Field for the final time this season on Saturday, November 18, facing off against undefeated East Division leader UCF on Senior Day a noon.